Today’s health industry is brimming with information, workouts, diets, energy drinks, protein shakes, dos and don’ts – all aiming for that super fit body. But before you begin to follow all those health fads, you also need to get your facts about your body right. The body fat percentage chart is one such chart that will give you an idea of how healthy you are and what should be the ideal fat percentage for you to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Having too much body fat can be detrimental to your health and poses risks such as high cholesterol and heart attacks etc. At the same time, having a low body fat percentage also comes with its fair share of physiological problems. These charts are actually markers to help you know what the ideal fat level is and you should try and maintain this percentage for a disease-free life.
This article will give you a brief overview of how to measure your body fat and the ideal range of the body fat percentage using some of the popular body fat measurement charts. Read on to know more:
When it comes to measuring body fat percentage, there have been hundreds of research and techniques. Earlier, people used to measure the body fat using a skin caliper. Though this is still being used, it is not as accurate and will not give you the right percentage. Nowadays, we have calculators that do the job quite accurately. Besides calculating the body fat percentage, they will also calculate other parameters like your BMI, your required calorie intake, your water percentages, etc.
A typical body fat percentage calculator looks like this:
Now let’s talk about the most common body fat percentage charts that are available and widely used:
1. Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart: ACE
This is a chart that has been formulated by the American Council of Exercise also known as ACE. It is most commonly used and if you are looking for one on the internet, you will see that ACE is mentioned somewhere on the top.
What is the first thing that strikes you when you see the chart? You will notice that in the column for women, the body fat percentage is much higher when compared to men. This is because when it comes to the physiology of a woman, they need to have more fat because of not just the physiological differences but other factors like hormones, breasts, and sexual organs. Also, women need to have a higher amount of body fat which is utilized during ovulation.
Now let us describe some of the terms that have been mentioned in the chart:
Essential fat: It is the minimum amount of fat that is required by the human body to carry out the basic activities and also for the body’s optimal physiological health. When it comes to finding the minimum percentage, there has been an ongoing debate on what is this ideal number. In this context, a research paper by Gallagher in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2000) said that in most cases, the low body fat ranges are found in people who are “underfat”, which implies that the person might come under the term “unhealthy”.
The research paper also said that men between the age of 20 and 40 years and with under 8% body fat are unhealthy, but those whose body fat percentage in between 8 and 19%, they are healthy. In the case of women in the same age ranges, under 21% is not healthy whereas 21-33% is healthy.
All these gray areas make the ACE chart a little bit debatable, but it is still one of the most widely used charts among weight watchers.
2. Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart: Jackson and Pollock
We talked about the skin caliper before and that it is still being used by many fitness enthusiasts to measure body fat percentage. One such caliper is the one manufactured by AccuFitness and known as the Accu-Measure Body Fat Caliper. When you buy this caliper, AccuFitness will also provide you with a body fat percentage chart based on research by Jackson & Pollock. This is the chart that is now widely considered an industry standard. Since this chart also includes the age, it is a much accurate version of the ACE chart and a lot of research suggests the same.
As you can see, there are different body charts for men and women and like we explained below, the fat percentage is different for men and women. Women need to store a little more fat because they bear children. However, it is essential for men and women to maintain a healthy percentage of body fat because it will also be a sign of their overall health and fitness.
Ideal Body Fat Percentage For Men:
It is also necessary to know that body fat percentage is affected by age. So men who are older will need more body fat to keep themselves at the peak. For men who are in the age group of 30 to 39, they should ideally have a body fat percentage in the range of 19% to 22%. For men who are in between the ages of 40 and 49, the ideal range will be 21% to 24%. And last but not the least, the men who are above the age of 50 should have a body fat percentage in the range of 22% to 26%.
Ideal Fat Percentage For Women:
For women, it’s a different ball game altogether. Men and women in the same age group have a very different body fat percentage due to reasons we explained earlier. There is also a lot of information on what should be the ideal body fat percentage for the women and sometimes it can be misleading. So the most important thing to keep in mind is the fact that the healthy body fat percentage for a woman is in the range of 15-30% and anything beyond this is considered obese.
Is Measuring Abdominal Fat Essential?
Absolutely essential because abdominal fat is actually the sign of your overall health too. People who have a very wide waistline are at a higher risk of developing diabetes later on in their lives too. Abdominal fat or visceral fat refers to the fat that accumulates in your body when you are having more calories than what it being burnt by your body and this fat is actually not good for you. Not only does it increase the risk of heart diseases and but you also have a higher chance of getting Type 2 diabetes.
In addition to using a body fat percentage chart, you should also measure your waist to understand whether you are within acceptable limits or not. A woman who has a waist that is bigger than 35 inches and a man who has a waist bigger than 40 inches are cases of abdominal obesity. This is the first sign of obesity and it is essential that you reduce your calorie intake.
What Are The Different Tools To Measure Body Fat Percentage?
Besides the two tools that we already mentioned – the skin caliper and the hand-held body fat measuring device, there is another one called the body fat monitor that measures the body fat percentage by using the method of electrical impedance. It is very similar to a bathroom scale, but it sends small electrical currents into our body to detect fat. This one is not as accurate as other tools but can help you at least determine your level of body fat. If you are looking for more accurate results, you could seek help from a professional who would be using CT scans, X-Rays and MRIs to give you a very accurate result.
Now you have gained an insight into measuring body fat percentage. Check your fat levels and plan your diet and fitness regimen accordingly to keep lifestyle diseases at bay.
Have you used any of the above body fat measurement charts before? Do share your feedback with other fitness enthusiasts here.